Structural Design: Above & Beyond

When we as engineers are asked to design a structure, it is required that you follow the building code for your area. But, this requirement to adhere to the local building code is a minimum. Should we, as engineers, always try to go “above and beyond” for our clients? I think so and that’s how we approach each project at Tobias & West.

There are many areas where small changes to the way a building is designed can lead to greater benefits for the owner long term. A great example and an obvious improvement is deflection criteria. The building code has their minimum requirement, which is usually span/240 for floor members. Why not try to increase this criteria to span/360 for your dead and live loads? You may already have a tighter deflection requirement if there is sensitive equipment or client-driven criteria. But, most clients will not think to ask questions about deflection and “how much their floor is going to move”. It’s the engineer’s job to educate the owner and architect to the expected movement that the building can have vertically and horizontally.

Another great place to go “above and beyond” is in the construction materials. If you happen to be working on a structure in a flood zone, then anything below the flood elevation will have to be flood resistant type materials. This means the structural members will be masonry, concrete, galvanized steel or pressure treated wood typically. If the building is located within a flood zone, then the chances are good that it is in an area that has high moisture content for much of the year. Moisture and water-intrusion can become big problems if not addressed properly. One way to improve on the design is to consider using galvanized steel within the main structure if it is required. We normally recommend it because once that steel column or beam is hidden behind the sheetrock, it will not normally ever see the light of day again. So, if there is any type of issue it is not normally visible until it’s too late. We also enjoy working on projects when there is a waterproofing consultant on the team. These design team members have a lot to offer when it comes to detailing and keeping the water out of your new building.

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